When you look at me, what do you see? Probably an entrepreneur, right?
Although I am an entrepreneur, I see myself as a consultant. I spent the first 6 years of my career running a consulting company and helping businesses with their Internet marketing needs.
It’s where I got my start, and although I hated the work, the skill set I got from consulting is priceless.
Download this printable cheat sheet of 7 lessons you can learn from the experience of a consulting job.
Here’s why you need to experience consulting as a job… even if it’s a short one:
Reason #1: Problem solving
No matter what field you are consulting in, your job is to identify problems and fix them.
If you are lucky, you’ll have free reign to do whatever you want, but chances are you’ll have to solve the problem within specific guidelines. This means you’ll have to be creative and start thinking outside the box.
This is important for you to learn because it will teach you not only how to solve problems, but also how to do this across any industry. This means you can work in any field in the future because you can adapt to any environment.
If you decide to stay with the 9 to 5 route, you will be more valuable to your employer as you will be able to handle any problem they might throw at you.
Reason #2: You’ll learn to speak your mind
A consultant isn’t an employee. Sure, you maybe working for a consulting firm or your own firm, but when you go to different businesses to help them out, you’re considered a consultant… not an employee.
As a consultant, you won’t be shy to speak your mind and tell companies what they are doing wrong. Why? Because you are getting paid to do that!
Speaking your mind is a really important trait… these days there are too many people who are afraid to do this in the corporate world. By speaking your mind, you are helping your co-workers or the company who hired you. So, always say what you are thinking, especially if it benefits the company.
Reason #3: You’ll learn how to keep a job
If you ever worked at a large corporation, you know that there are plenty of people who just twiddle their thumbs every day. To make matters worse, they keep getting paid without doing much work, and no one ever dares to fire them.
As a consultant, you won’t have that luxury. Businesses have much more strict rules when it comes to laying off an employee versus firing a consultant. Typically, they can fire a consultant without requiring any approval from their superior.
This means that you have to continually earn your spot as a consultant. You will have to keep working hard and consistently provide exceptional results. You’ll learn how to fight to stay alive and never give up.
Reason #4: Communication
The best thing I’ve learned as a consultant is how to communicate effectively. You won’t be working in an office every day, and you know your gig isn’t steady.
You’ll have to keep providing results, as I mentioned in reason number 3 above. Providing results, however, isn’t enough; you need to show them. You do this through reports, emails, phone calls, meetings and any other form of communication you can think of.
By hearing from you on a regular basis, they will know that you are working and producing results. The moment you stop communicating is the day they’ll think you are goofing off, which will lead to you being fired.
You can’t take communication for granted since it’s important no matter what you do in life.
Reason #5: Deadlines
Don’t you hate it when people miss deadlines? I’m so used to it these days that I expect certain people within my organization to be delayed, and I even account for it on my end.
Well, you won’t have the luxury of missing your deadlines as a consultant. You either hit them, or else you’ll face consequences.
I still remember each of the deadlines I missed because it usually lead to me getting fired or not being paid for the work I put in. It taught me the importance of being timely and meeting the deadlines.
What you’ll really learn is that a lot of people within a company can affect your deadline. Sometimes it isn’t you who is causing the delay, so you’ll have to learn how to manage people and timelines.
Reason #6: C-level experience
No, you’re not going to be the CEO as a consultant. But you do get to interact with CEOs or other high-level executives.
They are the ones who approved hiring you, and they write your check. You’ll have to learn how to sell yourself and your solutions. This is a very valuable experience because in the corporate world, you can’t just do anything you want. You typically have to get a buy-in from other people.
If things don’t go your way and you get shot down a few times, don’t worry about it. Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward. Eventually, you’ll learn how to convince executives to do what you think is best for them. It took me a few years to get there, but now, I am great at selling to C-level executives.
Reason #7: Money management
It doesn’t matter if you are consulting for a big corporation with billions of dollars in the bank or a small startup. Everyone has budget constraints.
You’ll have to learn how to play within the constraints to get the job done. You’ll get first-hand experience when it comes to trimming the fat, figuring out ways to be more efficient and stretching the dollar as far as it can possibly go.
Best of all, you’ll learn how to keep track of expenses, which is something that everyone can use. You can’t run a company without being conscious about how much you’re spending on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Consulting taught me all of the things above plus a lot more. Whether you think it’s sexy or boring to be a consultant, you should give it a shot. Even if it is for a period of six months or a year, you’ll learn a lot.
So what do you think, are you ready to be a consultant? And what else do you think we can all learn from consultants?
P.S. Being a consultant is nothing like Mad Men.